May 26, 2017

SAN DIEGO – A Tucson firm and two executives were arraigned in federal court May 26, 2017, on charges related to the illegal trafficking of $17 million worth of sea cucumbers from 2010-2012, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Blessings, Inc. of Tucson, its owner David Mayorquin, and Ramon Torres Mayorquin of San Diego were charged in a 26-count indictment with conspiracy, illegal trafficking in wildlife, importation contrary to law, false labeling and criminal forfeiture.

According to the indictment, defendant David Mayorquin, on behalf of Blessings, contacted suppliers of sea cucumbers in Mexico and agreed to purchase approximately $13 million worth of sea cucumbers, knowing that it had been illegally harvested in excess of permit limits, or without a proper license or permit, or out of season.

It was a further alleged that defendant Ramon Mayorquin received the shipments of sea cucumbers from the Yucatan to Tijuana, Mexico, and created false invoices to be submitted to U.S. Customs officials, knowing that the sea cucumbers had been illegally harvested, sold and transported, and lacked the proper paperwork required under Mexican law.

According to the indictment, the fraudulent sales invoices submitted to U.S. Customs falsely represented defendant Ramon Mayorquin to be the supplier of the sea cucumbers to Blessings, from a non-existent address in Mexico, for a price less than one tenth of the true price paid by Blessings for the sea cucumbers.

The indictment states that after the sea cucumbers had been imported into the United States, defendant David Mayorquin sold the sea cucumbers on behalf of Blessings for approximately $17.5 million to customers in China and elsewhere. The indictment alleges that as part of the scheme payments were made to bank accounts held under false names to conceal the illegal sales and hide the proceeds, and payments were also made to Mexican officials to insure that no action was taken against the illegally harvested sea cucumbers. In furtherance of the scheme, it is alleged that in June of 2011, a co-conspirator in Mexico sent an email to defendant David Mayorquin, stating in substance “We want what is owed in freight to be your contribution for the bribe, 32K.”

Mexican law requires that the lawful origin of fisheries products be demonstrated by means of an arrival, harvest, production, or collection notice or an import permit. The original sales invoice for fisheries products must bear the number associated with the notice of arrival, harvest, production or collection, as well as a description of the product, and all subsequent invoices must bear the number of the invoice from which it derived, so that all fisheries products sold in Mexico can be traced to their lawful origins.

In addition, in Mexico a fisheries waybill is needed for the interstate transportation of fisheries products. It is also violation of Mexican law to harvest, possess, transport, or sell a species out of season, or of less than the minimum established size and weight, or to harvest a species in excess of permit limits or without a proper license or permit. The indictment alleges that the defendants imported sea cucumbers into the United States they knew had been harvested, transported and sold in violation of these Mexican laws.